Lake Powell via Blue Notch Canyon/Piute Pass, 2006 – By Alex


This overnight loop has the dual goals of taking you on some seldom driven mining roads while delivering you to a rare vehicle accessible primitive campsite on the shore of Lake Powell.

Blue Notch Pass is a rough dirt road drive from Hwy 95 that most of the people you see at the shore will have used to to get there. The adventure begins when you drive out through Red Canyon and over Piute Pass.

There was quite a bit of prospecting going on in the Red Canyon area before the creation of Lake Powell that left a number of old roads. The shrinking lake has uncovered enough of the lower part of Red Canyon that the route where it connected to Blue Notch Canyon has once again become accessable. This canyon filled in with sediment when the lake was full, then the tamarisk came along to form thickets in the soft, moist sand. Now that the lake has dropped 100+ feet, this sediment is getting washed away by the intermittent stream that floods Red Canyon whenever it rains. The tamarisk is doing what it was originally imported to do, namely stabilize the banks of the canyon. This has caused tall, vertical cutbanks to form. The challange is to find your way through the overgrowth of this invasive plant to the one point where there is no cutbank. The map, and more importantly, the track and waypoints in the .gpx file, will help you locate this point. There are several dead end spurs along the the main route, now it should be easier to determine which way not to go as most of them have been recently marked with “route closed” posts. You will find a set of pruners or a saw handy when you get into the tamarisk because it rapidly reclaims the trail. Be careful when you make it to Red Canyon proper- the water table is close to the surface here and it is easy to find quicksand, especially after a rainstorm. Do not use this route if thunderstorms threaten as it is flood prone.

Driving upcanyon, in a little less than a mile you will climb above the high water mark to find a better defined Red Canyon Road, which will meander across the stream. After that the canyon will become broader and drier. In 9 miles or so, Piute Pass will come in from the left side of the canyon. This road is marked with a “Canyon Riders Trail” signpost and seems to be used primarily by ATVs, judging by the narrowness of the road in several places. It winds up and over some colorful clay hills that would not be fun when wet, then takes you for a short drive through Blue Canyon before climbing the 2000 feet up to Piute Pass. This whole area is crisscrossed with prospecting roads and a longer loop can be made, if you desire.

In late 2007 Glen Canyon National Recreation Area began the process of revising their OHV travel plan. I submitted the point connecting these two trails below lake level on roads that predated the dam and lake to be included in that plan. There will be more opportunities to comment on this plan in the months to come, hopefully it will be added to the map!

Nice campsite on Good Hope Bay

Routefinding in the network of roads between Good Hope Bay and lower Red Canyon is fun. Laccolithic Mt. Holmes is seen on the horizon.

Colorful rock formations in Red Canyon

Don’t blink or you’ll miss the road through the tamarisk

Note the cutbanks on the opposite side of the stream

Finding the quicksand, Jared prepares to yank me out

Better road above the high water mark

Blue Canyon on the Piute Pass Road

It can get quite narrow near Piute Pass

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